When Cornell announced that it had received a remarkable, anonymous $350 million donation specifically to help it build a new engineering and technology-focused school on Roosevelt Island (effectively forcing the city to select its bid) there was a lot of speculation as to who would donate that kind of money (*cough* hizzoner *cough*). But there is no reason to speculate anymore, the donor has come forward and, honestly? He sounds like the kind of 1 percenter we could use more of.
The gift to help the upstate Ivy remake Roosevelt Island in its image comes from The Atlantic Philanthropies, an organization which has been helping Duty Free billionaire Charles F. Feeney, 80, give away his fortune since 1982 ($2.1 billion to go as of the end of 2010!). "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity," Feeney said in a statement about the donation, "to create economic and educational opportunity on a transformational scale."
The thing is, Feeney's giving isn't just to the Ivy in Ithaca (though he has given quite generously, if anonymously, to his alma mater). He also is "credited with supporting hospitals and schools in Vietnam, mitigating poverty in South Africa and contributing to the peace process in Northern Ireland. He has supported higher education on a broad scale, particularly in the Republic of Ireland. Cornell also has been a major beneficiary: Atlantic Philanthropies (AP), the charitable foundation Feeney founded, has, over a span of 25 years, given almost $600 million to the university."
And that's not all! The Elizabeth, New Jersey, native—who made his money opening up Duty Free stores around the world in the 1960s—also is apparently incredibly frugal in his personal life. How frugal? "He flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch."